It all started in 2011 when three women compassionately pooled together their resources to start Awaaz for South Asian survivors of domestic violence in San Antonio. Based on their previous work with domestic violence, the founders saw a dire need for this service and a service gap that existed amongst the South Asian immigrant men and women in San Antonio. There were a few organizations that provided services to mainstream survivors of Domestic Violence. However, South Asians facing Domestic Violence could not turn to these organizations for help on account of cultural and language barriers. Awaaz was founded to bridge this gap.
Our founders Hema Bhakta, Sakina Sharp, and Tapasi Misra had valuable knowledge and experiences that have contributed to Awaaz’s success. Sakina Sharp was a survivor herself and had years of practice both as a lawyer and community advocate at domestic violence organizations such as Sakhi, Apna Ghar, and Family Violence Prevention Services. Hema Bhakta was a licensed therapist who had trained in crisis management and researched family violence in graduate school. Tapasi Misra had worked with local advocates to spread awareness of domestic violence to San Antonio’s South Asian community through yearly women’s conferences. All three women had either trained or volunteered at Austin’s Saheli (now the Asian Family Support Services of Austin) and had worked with survivors in various capacities and it’s their involvement within the organization that led to their introduction. It was kismet that the three had found each other leading to the birth of Awaaz.
To build a strong and abuse-free community based on compassion, dignity, and respect for the basic human rights of all.
To empower South Asian survivors of domestic violence through culture-specific advocacy and support services and educate the community to break the cycle of abuse.
Madhu Mehta has been Awaaz’s President since 2020. She is the leadership force behind the growth of Awaaz. She has dedicated her retired life to advancing Awaaz’s mission – executed a well-thought-out strategic plan and expanded service offerings by building robust relationships within the community. As a long-time, San Antonio native, she is well respected in the community and brings a keen understanding of the issues faced by domestic violence survivors of South Asian descent. She joined Awaaz as a secretary in 2018. She actively liaisons with other domestic violence organizations such as S.O.A.R and Collaborative Commission on Domestic Violence (C.C.D.V) in San Antonio.
She spent 28 years with USAA and retired as Systems Analyst in 2016. She co-founded the Aarthi School of Indian Dance in San Antonio and was with them for over three decades as a student and teacher. She currently lives in San Antonio with her husband and enjoys spending her free time with her grandchildren.
Tapasi Misra is a one of the founders of Awaaz and is currently a Board member serving as Director of Outreach and Client Advocate. She moved to USA at age 22 with her husband and attended the University of Austin as a student. Over the years she has proved to be a dedicated volunteer for various social, cultural, educational and community organizations. She has worked with a local hospice organization and has worked with many women empowerment organizations. She is one of the Founders of Awaaz and is an invaluable asset to Awaaz.
Director of Client Services
Uma Kasinath is a long-time resident of the San Antonio community – over 30 Years. She joined the Board of Awaaz in January of 2020 after retiring as the head of Psychiatry at the Veterans Hospital in San Antonio. At Awaaz, she serves as the Director of Client Services and Board member amongst other responsibilities. In her 30 years in San Antonio, she has served on multiple community Boards as an executive providing her services to the community.
Secretary and Director of Grants
Jyotsna Sharma is a retired UTSA faculty, and a San Antonio resident since 1983. A Fulbright Scholar, Jyotsna has been recognized for her cutting-edge science research. She also volunteers in multiple community non-profits. She joined Awaaz as a volunteer in 2014 and became a board member in 2018. She has been an invaluable asset to Awaaz, with her grant writing skills, and as secretary on Board. Since joining Awaaz she has brought in five grants that have helped our clients directly.
Bharti Patel joined Awaaz in 2018 as a Treasurer and has been with Awaaz since 2019. She has been in the US since 1995 and is very passionate about serving the community as a volunteer and philanthropist. A hotelier by profession, Bharti Patel has served as a board member for the Alamo Chamber of Commerce and as an executive on multiple social and cultural organizations in San Antonio.
Jinny has a long history as a Board member of AFSSA in Austin and has a lot of experience in the nonprofit world. She is excited to work towards broadening Awaaz’s reach and solidifying and expanding upon its mission as Awaaz moves into the future. Her professional experience is an amalgamation of working as an attorney, acting as an operation professional, and in general, doing the work that will put good out into the world.
Purvi Patel has been in San Antonio for about 25 years. She has completed her B.B.A in Business Management from the University of Texas San Antonio. She has over 16 years of business experience in the hotel industry from owning to daily hotel operations. She has been with Awaaz since 2015 as a treasure for 3 years and came back again in 2023 as a financial consultant or board member. Goal to empower/mentor Domestic Violence clients to become financially independent.
Jane Shafer worked in the domestic violence arena for 25 years for the City of San Antonio before retiring. Twenty-three of those years were at the San Antonio Police Department. She was responsible for the recruiting, training and scheduling of volunteers with the Family Assistance Crisis Team (FACT). She also supervised the Special Victims Unit’s case managers and civilian staff. Working in this field, she provided training on various aspects of domestic violence at the Police Training Academy, to professional groups, civic, church and educational groups, and organised trainings and conferences for the public. She currently serves as the Chairperson of the P.E.A.C.E. (Putting an End to Abuse through Community Efforts) Initiative. She also serves as a board member for Awaaz and continues to offer training.
Durga Suryadevara has been practising psychiatry in San Antonio for over thirteen years. She is currently employed by Trinity University and works with Trinity Counseling Services to evaluate and treat students struggling to maintain mental well-being. Her areas of expertise and interest include the spectrum of disorders in women’s health, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorders; she promotes a multimodal approach that treats the entire person. Dr. Suryadevara is a passionate student of the Indian dance form, Bharatanatyam, and has been learning Indian music for the last year. She is also on the board of the Chinmaya Education Foundation and works with the Chinmaya Mission of San Antonio. In addition to volunteering with Awaaz, she plans to start working with the Battered Women and Children’s Center of San Antonio. She and her husband are blessed with three children. Dr. Suryadevara’s goal in life is to learn as much as possible and continue to find ways to contribute to the well-being of others.
Our approach is driven by the voices of our survivors
We are committed to understanding survivors of domestic violence by listening to them patiently and actively, without the slightest of doubt, pre-conceived notion, or judgment.
We work towards creating a safe space for survivors to think, speak and plan their lives without fear. Offering them various options, resources and services that could make them independent and self-sufficient.
We focus on increasing awareness of the existence of domestic violence in South Asian communities, educating the communities about the multiple ramifications and intergenerational impact of domestic violence. We also build bridges between South Asian survivors and mainstream resource organizations by educating the latter about South Asian culture and traditions.
At Awaaz maintaining confidentiality is our number one priority. We will not release any information without the written consent of the client. Only the advocate remains privy to his/her client’s information.
At Awaaz there are many ways to volunteer – you could offer your services (legal, medical, financial etc.) for our clients or you can volunteer services such as marketing, outreach, Information technology, admin, fundraising, and grant writing to further our mission. Submit here the Volunteer application
AWAAZ SAN ANTONIO in partnership with TEXAS RIO GRANDE LEGAL AID (TRLA) Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. Victim Rights Group Coordinator & Legal Alliance for Survivors of Abuse ******************************************************************************************************** Our partners at the Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) sent us the following information. If you or anyone you know needs assistance with any of the issues listed below, please do not hesitate to contact us- we’ll connect you to TRLA immediately. “Please know that TRLA is here to help Awaaz clients who were affected by the winter storm and its aftermath – including help applying for FEMA assistance and with any consumer protection issues, for those who may be scammed by disaster opportunists. We know that victims of violence are already vulnerable and that they are deeply impacted by natural disasters. Please know that if your clients need legal assistance, even if it is not directly related to their victimization, that we can still help; we know that the lasting impacts of natural disasters may keep victims in an unsafe relationship or exacerbate the violence”.
When we created Awaaz San Antonio 9 years ago, we knew that we will need the community’s whole hearted support to be successful in our mission. Every year we have been becoming more convinced of the importance of community involvement in achieving our goals. Heartfelt thanks to the following organizations for promoting our mission with Awaaz video presentations and information at their events this year. They also showcased a Bharat Natyam dance depicting Domestic violence and empowerment of women choreographed by the Aarthi School of dance.
India Association of San Antonio. Special thanks to Usha Uvalu, Santanu Das and the Diwali team.
Diwali SA – special thanks to Kausi Subramanium, DiwaliSA team and the City of San Antonio.
San Antonio Bengali Cultural Community – special thanks to Avanti, Sanjay Sen and Jayanta.
San Antonio Maharashtra Mandal – special thanks to Vithalbhai Kulkarni and team.
San Antonio Tamil Sangam – special thanks to Karthikeyan
Aarthi School of Indian Dance and their talented students, Anjali and Niya
Grants Received by Awaaz
This funding has allowed Awaaz to help survivors of domestic violence. The funds support the long-term goal of assisting victims, facilitate the expansion of services through enhanced access to advocacy centers, hotlines and shelters. Awaaz will also continue to increase outreach to individual community organization by improved: presentation, website, software. etc